COPD Causes & Symptoms
COPD can have a variety of causes, with most causes being environmental. Long-term exposure to irritants can cause issues in the lungs resulting in COPD. Smoking in particular is a common cause of COPD.
Other diseases can contribute to or increase your risk of COPD. Asthma sufferers may develop COPD. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema also contribute to COPD.
People with COPD typically will experience a variety of symptoms related to their breathing. These include being short of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, fatigue, chronic cough and frequent respiratory infections.
COPD is considered a “progressive disease” which gets worse over time, but can still be manageable with symptom control, lifestyle changes and proper medication.
Common COPD Treatments & Medications
Many COPD treatments are similar to treatments for asthma. Inhalers are common method for treating COPD and come in fast-acting “rescue” inhalers for immediate relief as well as long-term maintenance inhalers to improve lung functionality over time.
Fast-acting inhalers are called bronchodilators and work by opening airways in the lung. Albuterol is the most common drug found in bronchodilators. Proair and Ventolin are typical brands of albuterol medication.
Corticosteroids are a long-term medication for COPD that help reduce inflammation in the lungs. These are often taken through an inhaler or a nebulizer, but can also come in injections or a pill for faster acting relief if needed. Flovent and Pulmicort are common brands of corticosteroid medications.
For more severe cases of COPD, doctors may prescribe methylxanthines. These come as a pill or liquid that can be taken daily and reduce inflammation by relaxing muscles around the airways.
Because COPD may result in chronic cough and a buildup of mucus in the lungs, drugs designed to reduce mucus are sometimes prescribed to help treat COPD. Carbocysteine and erdostein are common mucoactive drugs which help reduce or thin mucus.
COPD sufferers are also advised to get regular flu vaccines as respiratory infections can worsen COPD symptoms.